• Tim Cosgrove

Leeds University self-repairing cities robotic challenge initiative

Robotic Challenge 2020: Robots for resilient infrastructure

23 – 24 June 2020, Weetwood Hall Estate, Leeds, UK

‘Robots for resilient infrastructure to reduce disruption, improve worker safety, save money and resources, for a cleaner environment, to make life better.’ 

A two day challenge event demonstrating cutting-edge robots and autonomous systems to create, inspect, repair and maintain our critical infrastructure.

Alongside showcasing technical advances, the event will create a space to discuss the benefits and impacts of adopting such technology, and what we need to do to prepare for the future.

The event will bring those with responsibility for infrastructure, contractors, policy makers and city builders together with researchers and innovators in this area, to create a broad vision of the challenges and opportunities for infrastructure robotics. Applications for such robots cover broad domains including civil infrastructure, transport (road, rail, sea), offshore energy, space, and nuclear.

Cash prizes totalling £5,500 are offered, kindly supported by sponsorship from Anglian Water and Synthotech. The challenge is supported by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) through the Grand Challenge of “Balancing the Impact of City Infrastructure Engineering on Natural Systems using Robots” (Self-Repairing Cities). It is organised in collaboration with the UK RAS Network and UK Robotics Week. If you are interested in sponsoring the event and seeing your logo below, please get in touch.

The challenge

The event aims to bring together robotic systems with the potential to address the challenges facing future infrastructure. These may fall under, but are not limited to, the following technological  challenges:

Perceive and patch: Vehicles for autonomous inspection, diagnostics, repair and prevention of defects (e.g. potholes).Perch and repair: Remote inspection and maintenance of structures at height (e.g. bridge inspection).Plunge and protect: Autonomous robots with the ability to perform underwater or underground infrastructure inspection repair, and preventive defect maintenance.

Fire and forget: Robots designed to operate indefinitely performing inspection, repair, metering and reporting tasks (e.g. robotics operating in live water mains).Construct and confirm: Coordination of robot teams to build/print, finish and certify infrastructure from CAD models, using environmentally friendly building materials.Dismantle and dispose: Advanced manipulation in extreme environments to manipulate, cut, separate and unfasten structures (e.g. infrastructure de-commissioning such as nuclear or wind).Data and decisions: Create, process and interpret data securely for effective, verifiable and trustworthy operation of robots (e.g. robots to remotely augment building information models).

We will also seek to understand how these technologies will integrate into our lives through the challenge:

City and society: Building the case for the use of infrastructure robotics, with particular reference to the environment, society, policy and regulation, and future infrastructure needs.

The Programme

The outline below gives an indicative schedule, subject to confirmation of challenge contestants and speakers.

Confirmed speakers and panellists:

Prof. John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)Lila Tachtsi, FREng, Asset Management Director, Highways EnglandMark Gaddes, R&D, Network RailSonya White and Alex Georgiades, Innovation Hub, Civil Aviation AuthoritySimon Langdale, Engineering Manager, Synthotech LimitedProf. Rob Richardson, Director of the Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation, University of Leeds

Tuesday 23 June

Welcome and opening keynoteInvited talks on infrastructure robotics and materials for infrastructure repair from industry and researchRobotic challenge demonstrationsPanel discussion “What does a self-repairing infrastructure future look like, and what are the challenges and benefits (technical, social, economic and environmental)?”Networking session with time to view poster and showcase standsEvent dinner

Wednesday 24 June

Invited talks covering how humans might interact with future infrastructure robotic systems and the policy environment needed to support such innovationPanel discussion: Can using infrastructure robotics help improve people’s lives and contribute to UN sustainable development goals, locally and globally?Networking session with time to view poster and showcase standsRobotic challenge demonstrationsClosing keynotePrize giving and thanks


Best technical innovation. £1,500 first prize, £600 runner-upGreatest potential for impact. £1,500 first prize, £600 runner-upBest video. £500 first prize, £300 runner-upBest poster. £125 first prize, £75 runner-upBest showcase stand. £200 first prize, £100 runner-up

Take part

Enter the challenge ǀ Submit poster and showcase stands ǀ Attend as a delegate

Enter the challenge

We are seeking entries from robotic researchers and innovators who wish to showcase their robotic technologies at the event. It is expected that entries will be physically demonstrated at the event, however, where this not appropriate or possible then entries are permitted as short 3 minute videos.

Demonstrations will be judged by a panel of leading academics and industrialists. Cash prizes will be awarded for best technical innovation, greatest potential for impact, and best video.

The competition is free to enter and we encourage entries from around the world. Challenge competitors will receive free meeting registration and accommodation. The challenge will operate as a two stage process:


Expressions of interest are requested by 24 January 2020. Entries will be assessed on technical innovation, potential for impact, and alignment to infrastructure challenges.Applicants who fulfil the initial assessment criteria will be invited to submit a short preview video of their robotic system in action by 15 March. Entries will be further assessed on technical innovation, potential for impact, alignment to infrastructure challenges, and quality and feasibility of proposed demonstration.


Selected entries will be given 15 minutes to demonstrate their robotic system at the Robotic Challenge 2020 event. They will also receive a 7 minute talk slot to introduce their system prior to the demonstration. Video-only entries will be limited to 3 minutes. Demonstrations will be spread over the two day event, so challenge teams will need to be available to attend the full event. The judging panel will announce the challenge winners at the end.

Submitting an entry:

Please read our submission guidelines in full before entering the competition. Entries should be submitted via our EasyChair for Robotic Challenge 2020.

Submit poster and showcase stands

We invite submissions for poster displays and showcase stands by 15 March 2020. Priority will be given to submissions describing research and innovation within the challenge areas outlined. In addition, priority will be given to showcase stands bringing physical robots (these do not need to enter the main challenge). Poster and showcase stand attendees will receive free meeting registration and accommodation.

Submitting an entry:

Please read our submission guidelines in full before entering the competition. Entries should be submitted via our EasyChair for Robotic Challenge 2020.

Attend as a delegate

The two day event will feature the live robotic challenge demonstrations, mixed with keynotes, talks and panel discussions headed by field-leaders from industry, public bodies, and research and innovation. There will also be time to browse the showcase and poster displays, as well as network with other delegates. The event will be of interest to those with responsibility for infrastructure, utility providers, infrastructure contractors, policy makers, city builders, and researchers and innovators (robotics and autonomous systems, infrastructure, socio-economic and environmental impact).

A registration fee is applicable for delegates, with reduced rates for early registrations. A limited number of free places are available for attendees from public/third sector, not-for-profit organisations and early career researchers. These will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis with a maximum of 2 places per organisation.


Registration is via the Robotic Challenge 2020 page on the University of Leeds online store. Please see ‘More Info’ tab for booking Terms & Conditions.

Early Bird Registration: 2 December 2019 – 30 April 2020 Single day only: £100 Full event, two days: £150

Registration: 1 May – 15 June 2020 Single day only: £150 Full event, two days: £200

A limited number of free places are available for public/third sector/not-for-profit organisations, early career researchers, and project partners. These will be assigned on a first-come-first served basis with a maximum of 2 places per organisation. To apply for a free place, please contact Juliet Jopson in the first instance: s.j.jopson@leeds.ac.uk

Key dates

24 January 2020Challenge teams: Expression of interest due.31 January 2020Challenge teams: Teams invited to submit a preview video.15 March 2020Challenge teams: Preview video due.15 March 2020Poster and showcase stand submissions due31 March 2020Confirmation of successful challenge teams, posters and showcase stand entries22 April 2020Registration for challenge team, poster and showcase stand participants due.30 April 2020End of early bird registration rates14 June 2020Challenge teams: Final videos for video-only entries due.15 June 2020Registration closes23-24 June 2020Robotic Challenge 2020.


The event will be held at Weetwood Hall in Leeds, situated to the north of the city centre. The venue has access to grounds that give plenty of space for demonstrations and are suitable for flying drones.

If you have time to explore further, Leeds provides a perfect mix of vibrant city and countryside life. It lies in the heart of Yorkshire with 3 national parks on its doorstep.


Please contact us if you have any queries:

Co-ordinator Juliet Jopson Email: s.j.jopson@leeds.ac.uk Tel: +44 (0)113 343 32325

Events team For all general and registration enquiries’ please contact the Faculty of Engineering CPD event team on: Email: cpd@engineering.leeds.ac.uk Tel: +44 (0)113 343 2494 / 8104

Chair Dr Bilal Kaddouh, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds Email: B.Kaddouh@leeds.ac.uk

12 views0 comments